Alcestis  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

In Plato's Symposium Phaedrus opens by citing Hesiod, Acusilaus and Parmenides for the claim that Eros is the oldest of the gods, with no parents (He ignores the alternative view, already widespread, that Eros was the child of Aphrodite. Thus, throughout, Phaedrus selects versions and interpretations of myth to suit his argument.). Hence the greatness of the benefits he confers, inspiring a lover to earn the admiration of his beloved, as by showing bravery on the battlefield, since nothing shames a man more than to be seen by his beloved committing some inglorious act (178d-179b). "A handful of such men, fighting side by side, would defeat practically the whole world." Lovers may even sacrifice their lives for the beloved: Alcestis was willing to die for her husband Admetus, and the gods rewarded her by allowing her to return from Hades. By contrast, Orpheus made no such sacrifice; he went alive to Hades to find Eurydice, and returned empty-handed. But Achilles fought bravely at the death of his lover Patroclus though he knew that the fight would bring his own death closer; Phaedrus here takes Aeschylus to task for making Achilles the "lover" (180a), claiming instead that Achilles was the beautiful, still-beardless, younger "beloved" of Patroclus and citing Homer in his support.

Phaedrus concludes his short speech in proper rhetorical fashion, reiterating his statements that love is one of the most ancient gods, the most honored, and the most powerful in helping men gain honor and blessedness.




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